2 LiteratureCharles Ragin (1994): Constructing Social Research, Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press,
3 Goals – in general“Social researchers seek to identify order and regularity in the complexity of social life; they try to make sense of it” (Ragin 1994: 31)There are others, more specific goals, that are contributing to this overall goal
4 7 major goals of social science (Ragin 1994: 31 ff.) Identifying general patterns and relationshipsTesting and refining theoriesMaking predictionsInterpreting culturally or historically significant phenomenaExploring diversityGiving voiceAdvancing new theories
5 1. Identifying general patterns and relationships For many this is the primary goal (resembles hard science goal)General patterns are socially significant, i.e. relevant for large parts of societyNeed to look at many cases (one or few cases not necessarily representative)Think of an example
6 2. Testing and refining theories (Deduction) Large pool of social theories already existsLimitless potential to combine, adapt or transfer to other fieldsMethod: deductive hypothesis testing according to classic scientific methodOver time unsupported ideas fade from social science thinking, others are highly fertile and are progressively improved
7 3. Making predictionsPredictions about the future (vs prediction of what we expect in a data set = hypothesis)Predictions are based onKnowledge of history (e.g. Stock Market Crash)Knowledge of general patterns (e.g. crime rises when legitimate job opportunities decrease)Predictions can lead to/prevent specific policies (highly relevant)Predictions – usually broad projections of possibilities rather than pred. of specific events
8 4. Interpreting culturally or historically significant phenomena Not only general patterns, but also “atypical” events are socially significant because of their impact on who we are today (e.g. French Revolution, US Civil War)Interpretations of the hows, and whys of these events are contested but have heavy impact on our social lifeResearchers of general patterns generally do not address issues related to the consciousness of their subjects or other aspects of the causal mechanism at work.
9 5. Exploring diversityIn some way complementary to the study of general patternsThere are exceptions to general rules (e.g. high literacy, still poor or low literacy, but wealthy)Focus on the variety of social life, rather than on dominant patterns (they are not the whole story)Could entail normative appreciation of sociodiversity (multi-culturalism)Anthropologists often engage in exploring diversityOften seemingly homogenous groups are in fact diverseWhether there is diversity or sameness, is often only to be found out by looking for diversity (-> goal exploring diversity)
10 6. Giving Voice Step-up from just exploring diversity Objective not only to increase knowledge on marginalised groups, but also to disseminate this within societyInductive research. No preconceived theories, but looking at reality through the eyes of your research subjectsThis goal is very contested in social science (charge: advocacy)But: all research gives voice to some groups/phenomena, this form of research makes this aim and the group explicit
11 7. Advancing new theories (Induction) Inductive approach: on the basis of new evidence, researchers develop new concepts, new ideas about relationshipsOpposite to goal 2 “testing theory” (deductive)This goal often goes hand in hand with (is based on) goals 5 and 6 “exploring diversity” and “giving voice”But even the goal of identifying general patterns may lead to theoretical advancement (hypotheses may fail, new relationships are explored)
12 Attention ! Different goals are legitimate Hard science goals (1-3)Goals stemming from social nature of social science (4, 6)Deductive (2) and inductive (7) approachesThese seven are not the only onesThis is Ragin’s position on social science; others do not necessarily agree
13 Induction, Deduction, Retroduction What is induction, what is deductionMind GameRagin: most research includes elements of bothRetroduction = the interplay of induction and deduction“Research involves retroduction because there is typically a dialogue of ideas and evidence in social research” (Ragin 1994: 47) (more detail next week)
14 Goals and Strategies No research(er) can tackle all goals Some should not be tackled in the same study (theory advancement and theory testing should not done with the same empirical data)Practical tensions: researchers cannot examine many case in detail (resources)Researchers embark on specific research strategies (pairing of research objectives and methods) to accommodate multiple and competing goalsThere is no “correct” way of conducting research. Different strategies are possible, yet the three main strategies may be identified as:
15 3 Strategies of Social Research The use of qualitative methods to study commonalitiesThe use of comparative methods to study diversityThe use of quantitative methods to study relationships among variablesNote:these are only the most common pairings of goals and methods. Other matches are possible!Ragin differs from traditional dichotomic distinction between qualitative and quantitative researchby adding the comparative methodby conceptualising these strategies along a continuum
18 ResultsThere is not one goal, but several different legitimate goals of social researchThere is no complete agreement as to what is a legitimate social science goalDifferent goals require different research strategiesResearch strategies may differ with regard to the number of cases and the number of aspects under investigation
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